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Aero Contractors, which is considered as Nigeria’s oldest airline, has announced the suspension of flight operations.
The airline in a statement said this was due to challenging operational environment.
The company, which has been in operation for 61 years in a statement said that “Due to the impact of the challenging operating environment on our daily operations, the management of Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria Ltd. wish to announce the temporary suspension of its scheduled passenger services operations with effect from Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
“This does not in any way affect the maintenance activities of the Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO) otherwise known as AeroMRO, the Approved Training Organisation (ATO) also known as Aero Training School, the Helicopter and Charter Services operations.
“This decision was carefully considered and taken due to the fact that most of our aircraft are currently undergoing maintenance, resulting in our inability to offer a seamless and efficient service to our esteemed customers.
“We are working to bring these aircraft back to service in the next few weeks, so we can continue to offer our passengers the safe, efficient, and reliable services that Aero Contractors is known for, which is the hallmark of Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria Ltd,” the airline said.
Aero Contractors also explained that the past few months had been very challenging for the aviation industry and the airline operators in particular with the high cost of maintenance, skyrocketing fuel prices, inflation, and forex scarcity resulting in high foreign exchange rates, adding that these are amongst the major components of airline operations.
“In the meantime, we are working assiduously to return to service as quickly as possible, and do assure our esteemed customers and stakeholders of our determination, that our short absence will not create any major void in the market, as we are coordinating with our business partners to ensure minimum discomfort to ticket holders.
“As members of Spring Alliance (a commercial alliance with member airlines providing mutual support in the area of operations), we are liaising with our partner airlines to minimise the impact on our esteemed customers.
“Our customer service team will be working to help affected esteemed customers reach their destinations. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our esteemed customers and promise to return to service as soon as possible,” the airline also said.
But the signs that the airline may go under emerged two months ago when the airline fleet was reduced to two aged aircraft, Bombardier Dash 8-300 and Boeing 737-500 in their early 30s and totally bereft of operating cash, which brought the airline down to its knees and it became moribund.
It was learnt that the airline’s bad situation was exacerbated by the high cost of aviation fuel, which price has continued to spiral, threatening the operations of other domestic carriers.
The airline, which had provided shuttle service for oil and gas industry for decades and extended its service to scheduled flight operations since 2000 was burdened by about N50 billion debt overhang.
Before this announcement by the management, the airline was finding it difficult to fuel its existing fleet.